Today, March 14, is Equal Pay Day, recognizing how far into the year women have to work to catch up with male workers.
The gender pay gap hasn’t changed much in recent years — most sources say women earn about 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, while the White House says 84 cents. The gap is larger for women of color and for LGBTQ+ women.
President Joe Biden observed the day by calling for action to close the gap. “Discrimination accounts for some of the pay gap. In nearly every job — 90 percent of occupations, from retail to business to professional sports — women are still paid, on average, less than men,” Biden said in a presidential proclamation. “They can be the very best at what they do but still have to fight for equal pay. The pay gap also stems from women’s disproportionate caregiving responsibilities for children and aging loved ones, which can force them to forgo job opportunities, reduce their work hours, or leave the workforce at times. And part of it is due to the fact that women are underrepresented in careers that offer good pay and benefits, while fields where they are overrepresented, like teaching and nursing, do not pay what they should, despite being critical to our communities and economy. To right that wrong and truly level the playing field, we need to not only crack down on discrimination but also address the systemic issues behind the pay gap.”
He mentioned the executive actions he has taken for pay equity for federal government workers and contractors, and he urged Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, “which would increase transparency, making it harder for employers to justify disparities and easier for workers to hold them accountable,” the proclamation said.
“We also have to get more families the support needed for both women and men to lead full careers — including paid family and medical leave and affordable child, elder, and home care so no one in this country is ever again forced to choose between the job they need and the family they love,” Biden added.
The pay gap hasn’t changed significantly in the past 20 years, NPR reports. In addition to the gap for women overall, Black women earn about 65 cents for every dollar earned by men and Latinx women 60 cents. “Those gaps widen when comparing what women of color earn to the salaries of White men,” NPR notes.
The gap persists even though more women are graduating from college and law school than men and women make up half of medical school graduates. Part of the reason is that some women take flexible jobs to give them time to be with their children, and these jobs often pay less than those with more conventional schedules. But still, women earn about 8 percent less than men for the same job, economist Francine Blau told NPR.
“It’s what we call the ‘unexplained pay gap,’” Blau said. “Or you could just call it discrimination.”
A study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation last year found a more pronounced pay gap for LGBTQ+ women, both cisgender and transgender. Overall, they earned 79 percent for every dollar earned by men. The figure was 87 cents on the dollar for lesbian and gay women; 81 cents for queer, pansexual, demisexual, and omnisexual women; and 68 cents for bisexual women. Again, the gaps were usually greater for women of color.
Due to the limited sample size of the study — 2,100 women — the HRC Foundation was not able to compare the earnings of cis versus trans women. However, the group’s previous research found that trans women earned substantially less than LGBTQ+ women overall, and research by the Williams Institute and other groups has noted that trans women were much more likely to live in poverty than others. The foundation called for further study of how the wage gap affects LGBTQ+ women.